Edward Payson Roe


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Edward Payson Roe (1837-1888), American author, horticulturalist, and clergyman wrote Barriers Burned Away (1872);

He had hardly left his humble friends before Mrs. Bruder stopped, put her hand on her heart and cried: "Oh, Ernst! Oh, Gott forgive me! dot I should forget him--your fader's picture. I must go back." .... The woman's eyes were wild and excited, and she cried, vehemently: "Dot picture saved mine Berthold life--yes, more, more, him brought back his artist soul. Vithout him ve vould all be vorse dan dead. I can no live vidout him. Stay here"; and with the speed of the wind the devoted wife rushed back to the burning street, up the stairs, already crackling and blazing, to where the lovely landscape smiled peacefully in the dreadful glare, with its last rich glow of beauty. She tore it from its fastenings, pressed her lips fervently against it, regained the street, but with dress on fire. She staggered forward a few steps in the hot stifling air and smoke, and then fell upon her burden. Spreading her arms over it, to protect it even in death, the mother's heart went out in agony toward her children.

"Ah, merciful Gott! take care of dem," she sighed, and the prayer and the spirit that breathed it went up to heaven together.

A Presbyterian Minister in Highland Falls, New York in October of 1871, Roe was immediately moved to travel to Chicago upon hearing of the devastating fire. He wrote his first novel surrounding the events which became a best-seller, and which inspired an adaptation to film in 1925. From his Preface;

About one year ago our hearts were in deepest sympathy with our fellow-citizens of Chicago, and it occurred to me that their losses, sufferings, and fortitude might teach lessons after the echoes of the appalling event had died away in the press; and that even the lurid and destructive flames might reveal with greater vividness the need and value of Christian faith.

Edward Payson Roe was born on 7 March 1838 in Moodna, nestled among the streams and Appalachian mountains in Orange County, New York State, the son of Susan Eliza Williams and Peter Roe. Although Susan was often ill and the housekeeper, Betsey Williams was a close companion to the children, there were often many visitors to the bustling and happy Roe household. Young Edward would grow fond of the lush Hudson Valley, and return there later in life to live. He and his siblings had much fun and frolic playing in the garden, climbing trees, and picking flowers. Edward loved to tell stories, and as his father, so would he become an avid gardener, a subject of which he wrote many articles and essays.

After attending a private school in Canterbury run by his older brother Alfred, in 1860 Roe entered Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He was active in many physical activities including swimming, was an eloquent speaker, and it was there that he started to write in earnest, contributing short stories to such publications of the day including The Evangelist and The Independent. He would also have numerous items published in Harper's magazine including a series of horticultural articles and stories, among them; "A Kitchen Garden", "The Home Acre", and "Nature's Serial Story". After college Roe went on to attend the Auburn Theological Seminary in Auburn, New York. During the American Civil War, in 1862, Roe became devoted chaplain to the Second New York Harris Light Cavalry. A pious Christian, he held services, attended the wounded, and wrote as correspondent for The Evangelist. In New York in November of 1863 Roe took a months' leave from service to marry Anna Sands, with whom he would have seven children.

In 1864 Roe transferred to the Hampton Hospital in Virginia to act as chaplain there. Anna joined him in his duties tending the sick and wounded. After two harrowing years of war service Roe accepted the position as Presbyterian Minister at Highland Falls, New York, which he held until 1875. He was kept busy in clerical duties and the massive undertaking of building a new church, but the efforts would take a toll on his health. Roe had already done much short fiction writing, but it was the success of his first novel Barriers Burned Away (first serialised in The Evangelist and ill-health that caused him to resign from the Ministry in 1874. Many were critical of his leaving the church to become a writer. He and Anna moved to Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, not far from where he grew up and where his father still lived. There he ventured into small fruit farming, which proved to be lucrative and enjoyable to him, strawberries being his favourite fruit. But his resignation still dogged him via letters from critics and supporters. As his sister Mary Abigail recalls in her E.P. Roe: Reminiscences of His Life (1899), her brother told her "My object in writing, as in preaching, is to do good, and the question is, Which can I do best? I think with the pen, and I shall go on writing, no matter what the critics say." Thus Roe continued prodigious output of fiction and non- including such titles as Play and Profit in My Garden (1873), What Can She Do? (1873), Opening a Chestnut Burr (1874), From Jest to Earnest (1875), Near to Nature's Heart (1876), A Knight of The Nineteenth Century (1877), and A Face Illumined (1878).

Edward Payson Roe died suddenly at the age of fifty, on 19 July 1888. He now rests in the Willow Dale Cemetery overlooking the Hudson River in Cornwall-on-Hudson, Orange County, New York State.

Further titles by Edward Payson Roe include;

A Day Of Fate (1880),
Success With Small Fruits (1881),
Without a Home (1881),
His Sombre Rivals (1883),
A Young Girl's Wooing (1884),
Nature's Serial Story (1884),
An Original Belle (1885),
Driven Back to Eden (1885),
He Fell In Love With His Wife (1886),
The Earth Trembled (1887),
The Home Acre (1887), and
Miss Lou (1888).

Biography written by C. D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2008. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

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